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Portray Responsibly, Consume Shrewdly


July 18 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com. )



On Monday evening, I was one set of the eyes glued to the TV to watch part of Hachalu Hundessa’s interview, which was claimed to have been cut from its original airing on OMN, on ETV.

It was a watershed moment in the realisation that the events of the past three weeks have been about many things beside those initially portrayed, and I was not alone in the pit. The media is a powerful tool. For those that do not question what they hear and see, it is easy to end up confusing what is actually happening on the ground.

How much of what we see and hear in the media poses a fundamental question to our understanding of the current condition. The way the media portrays an individual or a group polarises our views and affects our opinions. They say ignorance is bliss, and this may be the case, but lack of knowledge is dangerous. It is also an ailment most of us suffer from.

How can this not be when we form our opinions based on the very few things we hear about an individual either from another individual or what is being circulated in the media? How would it have been possible for us to understand the fine distinctions within the prevailing narratives when we forget that the various media households have their own agendas?

It was an emotional experience watching Hacchalu's interview. It is easy to feel the pain his family and loved ones must be going through. The realisation that I did not really know him when he was alive and only got a glimpse of who he was after he died did not sit well with me either. All the information I had about him was from media outlets and people I came across.

But he was a far more complicated person than many would have preferred to portray him as. Clearly, he was a person that was determined and was willing to fight for what he believed in and had been through a great deal of hardship for what he stood for. It was hard to miss the sincerity and the emotional strain in his voice.

No doubt, it is important to recognise that, once again we are being exposed to narratives by groups and institutions that have a political agenda, and we should maintain a healthy reservation about how the events of the past three weeks are being presented.

Perhaps the important lesson here is one about the media. In the wrong hands, it can make or break the names and reputations of individuals. As consumers of information, we should be vigilant and skeptical about what we hear, see and read.

There is also a notion that the media should be allowed to provide information as freely as possible; this is not always the case. There should be a regulatory body, both in the form of institutions and a watchful public, that calls out misrepresentation and the reduction of views. Some agree that truth is subjective, and what holds for some of us could be the opposite of what many of us feel. But the truth should be maintained, and this will be the case as long as we have responsible media houses.

Many public figures have fallen prey to the media's sensationalist presentation of them and have been depicted in a certain way to serve a political agenda. But consumers of their content should not be too quick to judge and pick on individuals. We should swallow whatever we are told with a pinch of salt.

The responsibility thus lies in our hands as well. We are the customers with the power to demand independently produced content that sees the larger picture. We have to rise above our own biases and recognise how the different form of media revel in playing to our prejudices. If we do not do this, I doubt the practitioners themselves will volunteer to do as such.



PUBLISHED ON Jul 18,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1055]



Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com.






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